Saturday, 6 August 2016

Diana Reviews: A Broom at the Masthead by MJ Logue

Diana Milne Reviews A Broom at the Masthead by MJ Logue. The author has offered a giveaway to one lucky winner. To be in with a chance of winning this amazing novel, simply leave a comment below or on our Facebook page. The winner will be drawn on 13th August 2016. Good luck!

London, 1665.
“A Broom At The Masthead” is a pacy, racy romp set in Restoration London, featuring the husband and wife combination of Major Thankful Russell and his new young wife Thomazine, daughter of the unforgettable Holfernes Babbitt and his plump and unfashionably lovely wife Het.
Murder, arson, and rumour - would a man whose principles led him to once take up arms against his King, turn his coat again and work against His Majesty for the Dutch Republic.

Possessed of a most unfeminine strength of purpose, Roundhead's daughter Thomazine  has finally wed her hero, marred and enigmatic retired Admiralty intelligencer Major Russell, who's been drifting in and out of her life in various states of idealistic disrepair since she was two and he was twenty-one. Twice her age, disfigured, shy, a long-term bachelor - hopelessly unpromising romantic material, surely? But Thomazine doesn't care. Russell is her rebel angel - he always was, and he always will be. No matter what the neighbours say.
But as war with the Dutch looms and tensions run high in the streets of London, the darkness of Russell's past is all too suddenly exposed - and someone at Court is determined that he shouldn't get his happy ever after.
Funny, sexy, and brutal, this is a story of a man tortured by the demons of his past, eaten up by jealousy and hatred.
It's also a story of an unlikely but happy marriage, the Earl of Rochester's monkey, and amor vincit omnia...

 "Apple, dear, we're in a book. Do you mind?"
"Hm?" He's not paying her a blind bit of attention, and so Thomazine gives him a swift and unladylike kick in the ankle. "A book, dear. About us. You know - about London, and everything?"
That brings him up short. "About London? What - the carriage, and the murders, and - "And John Wilmot's monkey," she says. "And the poetry. Everything."

"Oh God," he says, "tibber, whose damn-fool idea was that?"
She smiles to herself. "Some people are never happy, lambkin. I liked it."

"I liked it very well, Thomazine! I'm just not sure everyone needed to know about it!" He scowls at his papers, and she narrows her eyes, recognising Aphra Behn's handwriting.

"What's that?" she says, and he looks up and gives her a slow, wicked smile. (He has a lovely smile. One-sided, and all his teeth show on one side but not the other, but he is very lovely. In a sort of - individual - way, she thinks smugly.)
"That's the next book, my tibber."
This incredible book is the first of The Drowned Books series. I have long been a fan of the Uncivil War books by M J Logue and I was fortunate enough to be allowed to read the synopsis way back at the beginning of the world when this book was proposed to the publisher. I thought then it would be a winner. I am not disappointed.

Hollie Babbitt and his rebel rabble are portrayed with so much realism and love (even when you are hating them!) that one finishes a book in the series with a feeling like saying goodbye for a while to a close friend. To review this book therefore is for me a genuine pleasure. Ms Logue’s unique voice and story-telling manner shine throughout and make her a writer deserving of praise and recognition.
The book is told in an intimate and confiding manner. I almost had the impression I was reading a journal told in the third person. The words flowed and I found it difficult to put down, something that I found in common with other books that this author has written.
The historical detail is very well researched and accurate and shows MJ Logue’s thorough knowledge and love of the era and her attention to detail, without allowing the reader to become bogged down in tedious detail. Ranging from London to the Low Countries, to the Civil War and early forensics, each detail is meticulously portrayed and adds greatly to reader enjoyment.
The book opens unexpectedly with a vicious murder. Fly-Fornication Coventry, whom we have met before, is brutally strangled and then burned, together with the Russell house, Four Ashes. It is apparent that the murderer is known to Fly, but who is it?
The book is a skilfully blended merger of tense psychological thriller, family saga, tender romance and murder mystery and it would appeal equally to lovers of any of those genres, (without putting people off who do not like these genres!)  in addition to historical fiction.

Upon learning that he will now be master of the house, Thankful ‘Hapless’ Russell realises he will now be in a position to marry. He begins to male preparations to woo and win Thomazine Babbitt, who he has known since she was a baby of two and him a scarred (and scared) world weary war veteran of twenty one.
To his surprise Thomazine says yes, and it is soon apparent how deeply the two are in love.
After the wedding, where Hollie, Het, Joyeux, Luce and other favourite characters make a cameo appearance, (I can almost hear Hollie thinking, ‘That was no cameo appearance lass. I paid for all that ale you supped,’) the reader gets a painful glimpse into Thankful’s psyche when he wakes in the night fearing amelioration by fire.
Russell and Thomazine set out for Four Ashes, arriving at that bleak half burned out, half rebuilt place in the winter gloom and Thomazine has a meltdown, comforted by the ever patient Russell. Making the best of it they spend the night in each others' arms in front of a fire they coax into reluctant life, but in the morning they are disturbed by the dour Scottish Eadulf, Russell’s friend and factor.
It is soon apparent that all is not as it seems and there are problems with the neighbours. Thomazine longs for home, her home with Het and Hollie and familiarity. As a compromise Russell gets them his old lodgings in London, but how well does Thomazine know the man she has always loved?
The scenes depicting Thomazine’s growing status as a woman, a society woman, and a sexual being, is movingly and touchingly portrayed with a sensitivity and skill that is lacking in so many authors. Their love life is made beautiful by Ms Logue’s words with none of the smutty undertones that that subject can generate.
Can Thankful clear his name, or will he and Thomazine be the murderer’s next victims?

 About M J Logue
 M J Logue has been passionate about the English Civil War since writing her first novel over 20 years ago. After a brief flirtation with horror and dark fantasy, she returned to her first love, historical fiction, and now combines the two. She has a degree in English literature, trained as an archivist, and likes Jacobean theatre, loud music, and cheese.

When not attempting to redeem the reputation of the Army of Parliament, she lives in Cornwall with her husband and son, three cats, and a toad under the back doorstep.
There is little more to divulge, other than - "I had rather have a plain, russet-coated Captain, that knows what he fights for, and loves what he knows, than that which you call a Gentle-man and is nothing else. "
(She is also incredibly ginger and incredibly sweary!)

Thank you, Oliver Cromwell!
The author’s blog and website can be found here...

Reviewed by Diana Milne, author of various To Do lists and a long letter to Aunty Pat. © August 2016.


  1. Twice in the review, there is a mention of a story about a monkey. Having had a monkey as a pet, I am curious to learn the monkey's story.

    1. The monkey is called Strephon, Denise, and he really did belong to the Earl of Rochester!

    2. It seems monkeys were very popular pets throughout history. We had our monkey for 8 years and they truly are little humans.

    3. There's a portrait of them together in the National Portrait Gallery, if you're curious -

      I imagine they had a high old time, although I guess more in the way of pals than pets :-)

  2. Sounds like a good book to try!

  3. Great review! I'd like to be in the draw please

  4. Actually a great synopsis rather than a great review but I enjoyed it's slightly breathless pace and am sure I will also enjoy the book.
    Apparently my Earl contains illegal characters, but so does Emjay's book. Sorry about my error in claiming to be The earl of Shrewsbury, but I'm not even sure what a/an URL/earl is and I had to change